Great by Choice – Jim Collins Book Summary

Great by Choice – Jim Collins | Free Book Summary

Great by Choice – Jim Collins

“Great by Choice” was first published in 2011 and is a study of companies that have been able to outperform their peers in the face of uncertainty and chaos. Collins and his team analyzed companies from different industries and identified key behaviors and strategies that contributed to their success, such as fanatical discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia.

The 20 mile march

Companies that consistently perform well in uncertain environments set and adhere to a specific performance goal or “20-mile march” that they aim to achieve regardless of external conditions. This approach helps them maintain discipline, build momentum, and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Fire bullets, then cannonballs

Successful companies fire small “bullets” (i.e., low-risk, low-cost experiments) to test the waters before firing a “cannonball” (i.e., a big, expensive investment). This allows them to fine-tune their strategies and minimize risk before committing significant resources. AtomicIdeas Newsletter

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Leading above the death line

Great leaders in chaotic environments exhibit “productive paranoia” by anticipating and planning for worst-case scenarios, even when things are going well. They are proactive in taking steps to mitigate risk and position their companies to thrive in any situation.

SMaC recipe

Successful companies have a “SMaC” recipe or “Specific, Methodical, and Consistent” approach to their business practices. They have clear, concrete guidelines for decision-making, and they stick to them, even in times of uncertainty.

The Genius of ‘AND’

Thriving companies embrace the paradoxical mindset of “The Genius of ‘AND.’” They avoid the either-or mindset and instead strive to achieve multiple goals at once. For example, they may aim to be both disciplined and creative, or both focused and flexible.

Return on luck

Great companies don’t rely solely on luck, but they do capitalize on it when it comes their way. They use good luck as an opportunity to prepare for bad luck and build their strengths, rather than resting on their laurels or assuming the good times will last.

Zoom out, then zoom in

Successful companies are able to “zoom out” and see the big picture while also “zooming in” on the details. They have a clear understanding of their overall strategy and goals, but they also pay attention to the small, daily decisions that will help them get there.

Clock building, not time telling

Great leaders focus on building a strong, enduring organization that can thrive even after they are gone. They prioritize developing a strong team, culture, and systems that can withstand the test of time, rather than just giving orders or making decisions.Free book, podcast summaries

SMaC in action: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is a prime example of a company that has used the SMaC approach to achieve long-term success. Their specific, methodical, and consistent practices, such as their focus on low costs and high reliability, have allowed them to thrive in a turbulent industry.

10Xers: The core behaviors

Companies that achieve exceptional performance in chaotic environments share a few key behaviors, including fanatical discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia. They also have a strong sense of purpose and values, which guide their decision-making and fuel their ambition.

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